Why do reporters and bloggers write about player comments on controversial or trending topics? Because they say them. And why to the players say those things in the first place? This is the important part to remember: far more often than not, it’s because somebody asked them about it.
Too often I see comments from people that are some variation of ‘why is he even commenting on that’; the answer is almost invariably because ‘he was asked for his opinion on that’. And so as players slowly filter their way back into the NFL season, we are starting to see Pittsburgh Steelers players asked about the hot button issues the team has been facing during the offseason.
Outside of the antics of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, the lightning rod of attention, in spite of his abject silence, has been quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his supposed lack of leadership. For a long time, his teammates remained silent. A few of them gradually decided to comment on their own, but others were asked about it directly.
Joe Haden falls in the case of the latter, as he was asked about Roethlisberger and his sense of the veteran quarterback’s leadership skill by (an admittedly pretty respectful and respectable) reporter from TMZ:
“I think Ben’s a great leader, man”, he said. “You know, there’s a bunch of grown men in the locker room. Each person isn’t going to be on the same page with everybody. Everybody isn’t gonna be best friends. but for me, I think he’s gonna be a really good leader. I’ve been there for three years now and he’s been nothing but a great leader”.
Whether he was busy not inviting Brown to his house or deliberately fumbling the football in front of Josh Harris, Roethlisberger has spent a great deal of his career being a horrible teammate, depending upon whom you ask, and when you ask them.
Of course it’s rare for a current teammate to say something like one of their leaders is not a good one, so we can hardly expect to hear that—and if we do, you can guarantee that it would be all over the sports media for multiple 24-hour news cycles.
So for Haden to back Roethlisberger and vouch for his leadership isn’t exactly a surprise. But considering the at one time seemingly endless cascade of public criticism the quarterback was facing not too long ago, which is slowly subsiding, I think it’s not too overwhelming to detail one more instance of a teammate acknowledging the quarterback in this way.
2019 may call upon him to step up more than ever, however, for not the least of which reason being the fact that he just lost the best player he’s ever worked with, and with whom he had a rapport, up until now, like none other. Everything he does on and off the field will be under the microscope more than at any time since the Milledgeville incident.